It has taken an avalanche of bad news to persuade US President Donald Trump into at least beginning to acknowledge that he may not possibly occupy the Oval Office a few weeks from now.
First, his own Department of Homeland Security ruled out any possibility of voting systems having malfunctioned and declared that the election was the “most secure in American history”. Then, the President’s team faced reverses in legal challenges mounted against the counting in three states – Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona.
This was followed by the election in Georgia being called in favour of Democrat Joe Biden, giving him an unassailable 306 electoral college votes against the required 270. This essentially means that Mr Trump’s legal challenges will have to succeed in at least three large states for the outcome to change.
And then came China that chose its moment to rub salt into Mr Trump’s by-now oozing wounds to formally congratulate his rival. In effect, and regardless of what might have happened on 3 November and the week after, Mr Trump’s fate seems sealed.
This leaves him with but one option ~ to finally, and with hastily-summoned grace, concede that he has lost the election and to pave the way for a measured transition to a new administration. And yet for all the reverses the President has had to contend with, the best he could come up with at a White House appearance was to say, “Whatever happens in the future, who knows, which administration, I guess time will tell.”
By the time this grudging admission was made, a law firm engaged to mount Mr Trump’s challenge in Pennsylvania had withdrawn from the suit it had filed, and a lawyer from the President’s campaign team dropped a suit he had filed in Arizona accepting that the numbers of votes he had challenged would not materially affect the result.
Despite these reverses, the White House has stubbornly refused to allow a smooth transition, denying Mr Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris access to real-time information to deal with either the coronavirus epidemic or the strategic challenges America faces across the world. This has forced a senior Biden adviser, Jen Psaki, to say: “With every day that passes on, it becomes more concerning that our national security team and the president-elect and the vice president-elect don’t have access to those threat assessments, intelligence briefings, real-time information about our engagements around the world.”
The President’s obduracy has seen the federal agency that oversees the transition refusing to acknowledge the Democratic victory, and even denying Mr Biden access to federal office space and resources. The non-partisan Centre for Presidential Transition, comprising veterans of previous administrations has already warned: “While there will be legal disputes requiring adjudication, the outcome is sufficiently clear that the transition process must now begin.” Mr Trump is running out of time and Americans can only hope that he will summon up some grace in the last lap of his Presidency.